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Local News – Wind storm damage

By Jessica Ridder

Wind storm damage – Upper Mountains

Destructive winds that last week saw the region declared a natural disaster zone triggered the biggest clean-up operation in Blue Mountains State Emergency Service (SES) history. By Monday morning a record 1062 calls for assistance had been received since 139km/h gusts struck the Upper Mountains on July 5, leaving thousands of homes without power for days.

At the height of the drama on July 5 a tree crashed into the first carriage of a passenger train as it pulled into Medlow Bath station while a Countrylink XPT service was stopped in its tracks near Blackheath just moments later by another falling tree. Blue Mountains SES acting local controller John Hughes was forced to call in reinforcements from across the state throughout the operation with 255 volunteers in the field all day Saturday as crews attempted to deal with the massive number of jobs.

Mr Hughes, who had assistance from Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW teams along with professional arborists, said the conditions were shocking even for veteran workers. He described Blackheath as a “war zone” with huge radiata pines causing the bulk of the damage.

It was amazing there had been no reports of serious injuries throughout the weather event, according to Mr Hughes.

Endeavour Energy repair crews were also kept busy as falling trees caused havoc with power supplies. More than 13,000 Mountains properties were without power last Wednesday morning with continued bad weather meaning some services were not restored until Saturday.

The state government last week declared the region a natural disaster zone following Premier Barry O’Farrell’s visit, making a range of assistance measures available to those affected. The federal government also pledged to help through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

BY MICHAEL CLEGGETT

13 Jul, 2011 09:27 AM – Blue Mountains  Gazette

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